By Kristine Aghalaryan
Armenia now enjoys the dubious distinction of being a transit nation for endangered animals.
These animals, from exotic African varieties listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to those native to Indonesia, are being trafficked through Armenia without difficulty.
The sale of proscribed animals is the 4th most profitable illegal business worldwide, following drug trafficking, human trafficking, and fraud. And the illegal trade of animals continues to grow yearly, and is now regarded as a major component of overall international crime.
Some of the animals brought to Armenia remain in the country. Some are used as "attractions" at various businesses, like the street hawkers of old, to pul in customers. Some wind up as pets in the homes of Armenia's rich or wannabee-rich, to impress the neighbors or to add a touch of "class".
The animal seen in the accompanying photos is the bonobo, (Pan Paniscus), formerly called the pygmy chimpanzee and less often, the dwarf or gracile chimpanzee. Native to the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the species was listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List in 1996, and is threatened by habitat destruction and human population growth.
The sale and export of the animal is banned in the DRC. Despite the ban, an animal resembling the bonobo has turned up in Armenia. The animal can be seen caged in the newly opened Jambo Park located in Dzoragbyur, a town in Kotayk Province.
The “exotic park” is part of a restaurant complex that opened this past September. It’s the brainchild of Artyom Vardanyan, a businessman who relocated to Armenia, who likes to show off the rare animals in his collection.
Illegal poaching is the main culprit, along with habitat destruction. The civil wars that racked the DCR in the 1990s and the ensuing lack of adequate conservation oversight opened the door to greater poaching on an organized level.
The threats facing native stocks of bonobo grew to the point that the ICUN adopted a 2012-2022 conservation strategy for preserving the species. More....